Extra! Extra! Read all about it! (Once in a while)Earlier this month, the third issue of The JujuGugu Herald News came out. The English-language newspaper does not care about making money.
Nobody on the staff knows the publication schedule, and the paper’s name gets changed now and then. The paper’s writers get together to put out an edition only when they want. Staffers don’t worry much about typos like “venchmarking” or grammatical errors like “I expect they will fascinating action in the future.”
The 8-page tabloid is a labor of love, and that’s the way the staff wants to keep it.
The staff members of the JujuGugu Herald News, all Jung-gu district employees, are meeting this recent afternoon to discuss the latest issue in their office, in the heart of downtown Seoul.
Kim Gun-tae, who trains district officials, expresses a concern over whether he should have used an infinitive instead of a gerund in a story. A founder of the paper, Mr. Kim writes and edits. Yoon Hae-kyung, who works in the district’s planning and budgeting department, is trying to explain why the sentence “Is there anything to want to do” is wrong.
Ms. Yoon does not yell at Mr. Kim, which happens in many newsrooms. The two are co-workers and the paper is their hobby, part of their focus as members of an English study club. You shouldn’t expect Shakespearean eloquence from JujuGugu Herald News folk. When you have a hobby, you tend to it when you can, how you can. And you do it for fun.
Suffice is to say The JujuGugu Herald News is not Le Monde. Thank goodness.
With a circulation barely over 600, the tabloid is distributed free of charge at the district office and at affiliated town offices. The paper has approximately 10 subscribers, though the term “subscriber” is used loosely. The 10 who get the paper in the mail do so by calling Mr. Kim and asking him to send them a copy.
The newspaper takes its name from two flower-toting cartoon characters, Juju and Guju, used in the district office’s logo. An issue of the paper requires a budget of 500,000 won (about $400), and the money comes from district office coffers.
What brought these public servants to publish an English paper in the first place? “Well, we love learning English,” Mr. Kim says. The English club’s hunger for language is impressive ― members gather each day after lunch in the conference room and the only rule is that everyone must speak English.
A couple of years ago, Mr. Kim, whose job at the time was to send e-mails in English to sister districts across the world, came up with the idea of publishing area news in English. In the fall of 2001, he got together with club members and decided to start a paper for district office employees. They brainstormed ideas and Mr. Kim took the initiative by collecting stories via e-mail. He had a designer lay out the stories and they were paginated by a printing company. The JujuGugu Herald News was born.
The paper, launched in November 2001, aimed to be a quarterly. Things did not work out that way, however, for the second issue appeared in May 2002. It took 10 more months for the latest issue, the third, to come off the presses Feb. 20.
“Now that we must write stories in English on top of our normal workload, we have to sacrifice our breaks and work overtime,” Mr. Kim says. “That’s what slows down the process.”
Consistency is not a matter of life and death to JujuGugu staff members. For the latest issue, the word “News” was removed from the paper’s nameplate. “We did not have enough room,” Mr. Kim explains sheepishly. “Maybe next time we can shrink everything in.”
In the most recent issue, the paper spells the district three different ways ― “Junggu,” “Jung-gu” and “jung gu.” “It’s strange,” Mr. Kim says, “but those kinds of mistakes seem to hide when I try to spot them on proofs.”
Most staffers at the tabloid have not ranged far from Jung-gu. Ms. Yoon did spend a few years in Moscow and still speaks some Russian, though no one has yet found a way to work that skill into the pages of The JujuGugu Herald News. Someone did, however, find a way to reproduce lyrics from a Whitney Houston song.
“We are not professionals,” confesses Mr. Kim. “We are just happy to see our ideas and dreams realized in something tangible.”
Sometimes, of course those ideas and dreams get sidetracked. Park Jin-young, a staff member whose job is to see that restaurants in the district are licensed, says, “The hardest part for me comes when I see what I wrote in English differs from what I actually had in mind.” As she sipped a cup of coffee one day last month, Ms. Park hit on the idea of writing something out of her own personal interests and so she contributed a story on the history of coffee in Korea. In the article, she says, “We think coffee mediates people in modern society.” She ends the piece this way: “As people consumed coffee in large quantities, many suffered from insomnia. But that is another story.”
Jung Mi-seon, who manages old-age homes in the district, says that to write about traditional Korean culture is forever a challenge. “No matter how hard I try, I just cannot express in words what a hanok, or Korean traditional house, is.”
Ms. Jung, a housewife with a newborn at home, wanted to quit the paper several times during the writing of her hanok story. It’s hard to put pen to paper at home while burping an infant and mopping the kitchen floor. “Mr. Kim, however, was always there to back me up,” she says, “I think it’s the bond among people that makes the paper go on.”
Most JujuGugu Herald News staffers wish the feedback were better. After the second issue came out, Mr. Kim did receive a phone call from a reader, a Jung-gu district resident, who said, “In every dictionary I’ve looked, I can’t find the word ‘JujuGugu.’”
Some readers, Mr. Kim happily points out, use the paper to study English. He recently received a telephone call from Ansan City Hall, asking for a copy. “The officials there said they are also thinking about having an English paper -- like ours.”
To boost readership, the paper started a crossword puzzle. Mr. Kim says he pays particular attention to make the puzzle reader-friendly, using clues such as “When I am not happy, I ___.” He even offers prizes for anyone solving part of a puzzle.
So far, though, no one has sent in a single solution.
by Chun Su-jin